Bitchin Bajas / Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties

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The third outing from the Cooper Crain-led, Windy City-based experimental trio sees the Bitchin Bajas teaming up with the equally mercurial Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy) for a good, old-fashioned minimalist hoedown. The aptly named Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties offers up a trance-inducing set of bucolic folk emissions that pair elliptical melodies with Oldham riffing on fortune-cookie aphorisms. Opener "May Life Throw You a Pleasant Curve" eases the listener into the float tank with a summery, Incredible String Band-inspired refrain and Oldham's affable warble, and coming in at just over three minutes, it serves as a pleasant apéritif. What follows is largely the same, but bereft of any sort of brevity, which is to be expected from a musical partnership between two such metaphysically minded entities. The Bajas and Oldham promise the listener that "you will receive many unknowable hours of joy from this album of collaborative cosmic music," but that largely depends on the listener's threshold for homilies and loops. There is a strong spiritual undercurrent at play throughout the nine tracks, especially on the epic "Your Heart Is Pure, Your Mind Is Clear, Your Soul Devout," which arrives via the soft clang of what sounds like Buddhist meditation bells. That sentiment is echoed again on the monastic "Your Whole Family Are Well," which echoes (sonically) the Muslim call to prayer, as well as mid-period Dead Can Dance. All of the free associating and good-natured droning can be a bit torpor inducing, so it's a nice surprise when the closer, "Your Hard Work Is About to Pay Off, Keep on Keeping On," arrives. Loose, languid, yet structured enough to feel like a proper bit of pop craft, it brings things back to earth, if only for a short spell, its unfettered hippie heart aglow with positivity and possibility.

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